Senate Trio's Climate Bill Said To Hide Info on Fracking Poisons

March 24, 2010

The closed-door deals going into the still-unreleased climate bill being hatched by Sens. Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham now reportedly include a special prize for the gas industry: hiding from the public information about toxic substances used by "fracking" drillers that may be pumped or leaked into people's underground drinking-water supplies.

The gas industry sees a bonanza of new gas from shale formations using a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") technologies. The Bush EPA said fracking was safe, but many residents have complained of contamination of their drinking wells by the method. The Obama EPA has said it will move more aggressively to study and prevent any such contamination, and bills to regulate fracking have been introduced in Congress. The gas industry has mounted a full-bore lobbying and PR campaign to stop both legislative and regulatory efforts to protect the public from fracking.

In 2005, during the Bush administration, the GOP-controlled Congress passed an Energy Bill that specifically exempted fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Fracking involves pumping a slurry of many ingredients into a borehole to fracture rock and release gas. The industry has been highly secretive about what's in the fracking fluid, claiming it's a trade secret. But EPA and clean-water advocates have a pretty good idea about many of the ingredients in fracking fluid — including toxic ingredients like benzene, a known carcinogen. The 2005 exemption allows companies to keep the ingredients secret — which is why safe-water advocates have urged legislation requiring disclosure.

Mike Soraghan reported in a March 23, 2010, Greenwire article, that the draft Kerry-Lieberman-Graham climate bill may include language to keep those potentially toxic ingredients secret from the public whose health may be harmed by them.